2014-06-13 / Community

In the News

Summer school programs to continue

The South Portland School Department has been awarded a three-year, $300,000 grant under the federal 21st Century Community Learning Center program to continue afterschool and summer enrichment programing at Kaler and Skillin Elementary Schools. Although initially ineligible to renew the grant, the schools were able to secure funding by partnering with LearningWorks, a Portland-based social services and alternative education agency. The funding means both schools will have six-week summer programs this year aimed at students who, according to Assistant Superintendent Kathy Germani “are right on the cusp of meeting proficiency” on standardized tests.

Programming similar to afterschool services in place for the past five years will now be administered by LearningWorks.

“This does not mean that we give up control of the program in the afternoon,” said Germani. “It means that we would be equal partners with LearningWorks. They just will take care of all of the financial pieces of the grant, but they’ll hire our staff.”

Budget approved

In a light turnout equaling 8.7 percent of South Portland’s 19,167 registered voters, the $44.8 million school budget for the 2014-2015 school year was approved by a 2-1 margin in primary polling Tuesday. According to City Clerk Susan Mooney, 1,127 votes were cast in favor of the budget, while 530 were opposed.

The school budget, up $1.7 million (or, about 4 percent) from current spending, is expected to add about 46 cents to the tax rate, currently set at $16.70 per $1,000 of property valuation, pending finalization of the municipal budget and commitment of taxes.

Projects in works

South Portland is scheduled to vote at its next meeting, June 16, to appropriate $637,000 as the local match for four pedestrian projects totaling $2.5 million. Although the money, made available by the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System, will not be put to use until 2016 at the earliest, South Portland must commit funding the projects by July in order to submit its application. PACTS is expected to announce its projectfunding decisions this fall.

City Manager Jim Gailey said the local match will come from a variety of sources, including tax increment finance contracts and a possible November bond proposal, as well as a dip into the city’s $9 million undesignated surplus.

If awarded, most of the grant money, about $1.2 million, will be used to complete planned road and sidewalk improvements along Main Street through the Thornton Heights neighborhood. By widening the walks, narrowing the travel lanes, and adding landscaped esplanades, city officials hope to better blend what is now a fourlane drag into the surrounding residential neighborhoods.

Other projects would construct a multiuse path from the Veterans Memorial Bridge to the Greenbelt Trail, add bike lanes and crosswalk improvements along Broadway in the Mill Creek area, and improve drainage on Lincoln Street.

– Compiled by Contributing Writer Duke Harrington

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